The European Elections: Costa del Sol's expats keep low profile: Phil Davison in Marbella finds Spain's foreign residents are reluctant to engage in the machinery of Euro-voting

Only 7 per cent of Britons resident in Marbella and along the Costa del Sol have registered to vote on Sunday for Spanish candidates to the European Parliament. It is the first chance for Britons to vote in Spain but the statistics suggest few care enough, or that many prefer to keep a low profile when it comes to official bureaucracy.

Britons here get upset by the tabloids' insistence that their chosen home is the 'Costa del Crime', but inquiries about people's voting intentions turned me into a leper in some bars, prompting hints that I might be from the Inland Revenue or Scotland Yard and suspicious requests to see my press card.

You can see them cruising in their Rolls Royce Corniches, Mercedes or Porsches - with an exotic variety of customs-free number plates - or sipping sundowners on their yachts at the Puerto Banus marina. But when it came to signing up at the Town Hall during the first six weeks of the year - the voting registration period - Britons and other EU citizens stayed away.

Consular officials estimate only a few thousand of the 70,000 known British residents of Spain have registered to vote. In the small town of Mijas, in the hills above the Costa del Sol, where the 13,400 EU citizens outnumber Spaniards, only 466 registered.

'A lot of people out here are older folks. They came out to retire, to get away from politics,' said James Chapman, 46, a father of five from Exeter who runs a property management business in Mijas. 'I dragged my wife, my 18- year-old boy Anthony and even my mum along. She won't say how old she is. I reckon she's about 70 but apparently she's eligible.'

Mr Chapman - 'one of Norman Tebbit's boys. I got on my bike and decided to do something' by moving to Spain six years ago - noted that the Spanish party list system left most Europeans uninterested. 'There's also still a certain colonial attitude. A lot of people don't realise that this is the beginning of a great future for expatriates.' On Sunday, British residents of Spain can vote for the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE), the conservative opposition Partido Popular (PP) or smaller parties. Behind the bougainvillea and mimosa-clad villas around here, the number of Daily Telegraphs on coffee tables suggest the PP will do well out of the British vote.

The European poll has helped to alert Spain's British residents to the fact that they will have a more direct chance to vote next year. For the first time, they will be able to vote in municipal elections. In towns such as Mijas, that could mean a British, German, Dutch or Danish mayor. Mr Chapman plans to run for the Town Council on the PP ticket - he has been a member for four years - campaigning on behalf of foreigners' main concerns, such as better policing and sanitation. He is, however, full of praise for Mijas's Socialist mayor, Antonio Maldonado, who opened Spain's first special department for foreign residents, an idea that has spread elsewhere.

Spain's parties have done little to win foreigners' votes. The PP put a few advertisements in papers during the registration period but the Socialists were slow to act. Last Monday, D-Day, the Socialist administration of the town of Fuengirola had a brainwave. It issued a 'congratulatory D-Day message' to Europeans - including Germans - reminding them of Sunday's vote and that the Socialists would carry forward D- Day's message of 'liberty and democracy in Europe'.

In the remote small town of Montefrio, north-west of Granada, Briton Lawrence Bohme, undeterred by being the only foreigner among the 8,000 population, plans to run for mayor next year against the Socialist incumbent Antonio Garcia. 'The Spaniards are very naive. They've been asleep but they're beginning to see that the system is rotten from the middle,' said Mr Bohme, 52, an interpreter from London whose German father fled the Nazis and spent the war in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing